The chairwoman of a North Carolina county board of elections threatened to call the police after residents recited the pledge in defiance of the commission’s vote.
Louella Thompson, a Democrat, made the threat at the end of a contentious meeting of the Bladen County Board of Elections in the east of the state. She said reciting the pledge constituted a disruption of a government meeting.
“If that happens again law enforcement will be called,” Thompson said. “It is against the law to disrupt a meeting. That is going on and that is what happened today with the reciting of the pledge.”
Earlier in the session, the board voted 3-2 along party lines against a measure to add the Pledge of Allegiance to its official agenda.
Republican board member Emory White introduced the measure.
“Being in the military, we honor the flag all the time in the military,” he said. “I just think it should be on the agenda. There is no way we should have a meeting without it. It’s like having a prayer. Why do we object to the Pledge of Allegiance?”
People in the audience repeatedly repeatedly pressed Thompson to explain her vote against adding the pledge.
But she would only answer: “That’s my right, and I exercise it.”
A number of attendees spoke up in passionate opposition to the board’s decision.
“You have an opportunity here to make a statement about what’s right and what’s wrong, and it’s right to say the pledge. It really is,” said a man who identified himself as Dan Smith. “If you don’t want to recite it, by all means don’t recite it. If you don’t want to stand up, by all means don’t stand up. But give the other people and opportunity to do so. and that’s not a lot to ask. That’s compromise, and that’s what we need in this country.”
Smith then led more than half the audience — along with the two Republican board members — in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in defiance of the Democrats.
“I think that was quite out of order,” Thompson said afterward.
The board took a recess to discuss the issue.
Louella Thompson faces blowback
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat who appointed Thompson, said he disagreed with the board’s decision not to recite the pledge.
“The Governor leads the Pledge of Allegiance before every Council of State meeting. He doesn’t agree with the action taken and he thinks it’s a good practice to say it before a Board of Elections meeting,” a spokeswoman for the governor told the Bladen Journal.
Rep. Dan Bishop, a North Carolina Republican, issued a press release Wednesday criticizing Thompson for her threat to involve law enforcement.
“I was appalled that the Chairwoman of the Bladen County Board of Elections will prevent board members—on threat of arrest—from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance,” he said. “It shows a twisted moral code to oppress the right to honor a flag that stands for freedom from oppression. I stand with the board members who continue to revere and respect our flag and those who lost their lives defending it.”